Baltimore, MD (SportsNetwork.com) - A year after hitting 40 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles, Nelson Cruz was at it again at Camden Yards Tuesday, this time for the visiting Seattle Mariners.
However, Cruz's three-run home run, his league-leading 16th, was not enough as the Orioles beat the Mariners 9-4 to open a three-game series.
Jimmy Paredes hit a two-run home run and drove in four runs, and Alejandro De Aza collected three hits for Baltimore. Starter Miguel Gonzalez (5-2) bounced back after a rocky first three innings to earn the win, allowing four runs in seven innings with eight strikeouts.
"He got better as the game went on," said Orioles manager Buck Showalter. "He threw some zeroes up after we scored and got back in it. That's pretty typical of Miguel."
Cruz had two hits and walked, and Robinson Cano ended an 0-for-11 stretch with a two-hit game. Taijuan Walker continued to struggle and allowed four runs on seven hits and four walks in 3 2/3 innings while Danny Farquhar (0-2) took the loss with three runs allowed in 2 1/3 innings of relief.
"I've said this before, but with a young pitcher like Taijuan, out of five starts, there's going to be two bad ones and one that is just OK and two that are going to dazzle you," said Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon.
The Mariners only needed four pitches to go ahead when Seth Smith hit a leadoff home run to give Seattle a 1-0 edge. Baltimore also scored in its first at-bat, but it could have been worse. Smith's leaping grab at the wall robbed Adam Jones of a home run, but Steve Pearce's two-out single tied the game.
Orioles fans provided Cruz with a warm welcome in his first at-bat, but their reaction was decidedly less happy in his second trip to the plate when he crushed a three-run homer to left-center field to put the Mariners up 4-1.
Walker would unravel in the fourth as the Orioles scored the first three of their eight unanswered runs. Caleb Joseph singled with the bases loaded, and after Manny Machado grounded into a double play, Paredes tied the game with a two-run single.
Farquhar settled Baltimore down with a 1-2-3 fifth, but the game got away from the Mariners in the sixth. Back-to-back doubles by De Aza and Joseph put the Orioles in front for the first time, and Paredes later hit a two-run homer to give the Orioles a 7-4 lead.
Cruz, whose defense has been closely scrutinized during his career, handed his former teammates an insurance run in the seventh. Pearce singled to lead off the frame, and Travis Snider appeared to follow him with another single, but Cruz overran the ball, allowing Pearce to score and Snider to reach third.
Machado generated an additional run in the eighth when he led off with an infield single. After stealing second base, he advanced to third on a wild pitch and then scored on a passed ball.
O's starters have pitched seven-plus innings in five straight starts ... Machado set a career-high for steals in a season with his seventh ... Paredes' home run was his sixth. In parts of the previous four seasons, he hit five home runs in 145 games ... Earlier Tuesday, Seattle acquired catcher Welington Castillo from the Cubs for right-handed pitcher Yoervis Medina.